Poles locate WWII British submarine which was lost in 1940

A Polish team looking for the wreckage of a Second World War Polish submarine accidentally came across the wreckage of British WWII submarine HMS Narwhal in spring last year. Now they plan to meet families of the crew members.

The families of 20 of the British submariners have since made contact with the search team, who have proposed a meeting in London. 

HMS Narwhal went missing in July 1940 while on a mission in the North Sea. Although the vessel's fate was unknown, UK authorities assumed it had been sunk by German planes. The submarine's wreckage was found last spring by a Polish team looking for the remains of a legendary Polish submarine, ORP Orzel ("Eagle").

The Narwhal's remains were resting on the bed of the North Sea about 140 miles (225 km) east of the Scottish coast. Polish media carried news of the discovery, and the search team tried to also interest British media in the discovery. "In May and June last year, we sent many official messages to institutions there, including the British Navy, but there was no reply," Tomasz Stachura, the head of the Orzel search team, told PAP. He continued that in October last year, one of the search team members gained access to a British discussion forum grouping people interested in missing wrecks, and described the story of finding the Narwhal. The information was picked up by the UK media. 

"At a certain moment I started to receive mail from people related to the seamen who made up the Narwhal's crew," Stachura explained, adding that at the time it went missing, the British vessel had 58 crewmen aboard. Most of the people writing to Stachura were in their 70s and 80s, mostly distantly related to the missing submariners. However, one of them was the daughter of the Narwhal's captain - Ronald Burch - Tamara. "When her father went missing she was two years old, so she didn't remember him. She wrote in her mail that she was crying while writing because our discovery reminded her of her father's fate. She explained that she was not good with computers and couldn't attach a picture of her father, but would gladly show it to us at a personal meeting," Stachura continued, adding that the letter moved him greatly. 

Through further correspondence with the captain's daughter, Stachura learnt that Burch had served on the ORP Wilk ("Wolf") - one of the Polish submarines requisitioned by the British Navy after the outbreak of war. "He received a medal for that service from General (Wladyslaw, Poland's Prime Minister-in-exile during WW2) Sikorski," Stachura said. 

Within a few weeks of the story appearing in the British media, Stachura had receive correspondence from 20 families of the HMS Narwhal's crew. "In December, a decision was taken to organise a meeting with these families in the UK," Stachura continued, adding that it would take place on January 12 at London's Ognisko Polskie club. "We have confirmation of the presence of 30 people."